Monday, 9 December 2019 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is usually celebrated on the eighth day of December but since yesterday the eighth fell on a Sunday, which is the Second Sunday of Advent, this Solemnity is brought to the next day that is today, the ninth of December.

This celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception refers to the time when Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne without any trace or corruption of original sin, and does not refer to the moment of her birth, her Nativity which is celebrated exactly nine months from now, on every eighth of September. This Immaculate Conception is a very significant belief of our faith, which was formalised as a Dogma by Blessed Pope Pius IX in the year 1854 in his Papal Bull, Ineffabilis Deus.

Although it has only been formalised as a Dogma relatively recently by the Church but in truth, the Church and the faithful since the earliest times and history of the Church has always believed that Mary, as the Mother of God was free from any taints of sin by the singular grace of God, because of the role that she has been entrusted to by the Lord Himself. Mary has been called and chosen to be the one who was to bear the Messiah in herself.

Through this, we can see essentially what is the significance of the Immaculate Conception of Mary to all of us, as her Immaculate Conception actually underlines the core tenets of our faith, the central focus of our beliefs in God. This is such that if we do not believe in the Immaculate Conception, or worse still, reject this Dogma, then we actually have done nothing less than to reject the basic and most important core beliefs of our faith itself.

That is because the belief of the Immaculate Conception, or Mary conceived without the taint of sin is rooted in the belief that Mary is none other than the new Ark of the Covenant. Why is that so? That is because the Ark of the Covenant was the historical relic and an actual receptacle, a large box made of the most precious materials to contain several objects that represent the Covenant which God has made with His people, the Israelites.

Inside the historical or the old Ark of the Covenant according to the Old Testament was the two stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written. These were the ones that Moses made to replace the ones written by God which had been destroyed when God became angry at His people’s disobedience in worshipping the golden calf idol. It therefore became a symbol of the Covenant of God renewed with His people.

Besides that, there were also a bowl of the manna, the miraculous bread of heaven by which God had fed His people through their forty years journey in the desert, yet another reminder of the Covenant of God, how God has been faithful in taking care of and loving His people all the way even though the people had often disobeyed and walked away from the path of God. And lastly, in the Ark was also the staff of Aaron, the staff used by Moses to perform the many plagues of Egypt and his many other miraculous works, to show the power of God among the people.

The Ark of the Covenant had always been, since the time of its creation, the most hallowed and blessed object in the world. It was made from the most precious materials and God also blessed and hallowed it, for it is on the Ark of the Covenant, placed at the Holy of Holies in the Tent of Meeting, and later on in the Holy of Holies of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, that God and His Holy Presence descended to dwell in the midst of His people.

It was so holy that no one was allowed to touch it, and when one of the priests accidentally touched it when it was about to be moved to Jerusalem during the time of king David, the one who touched it was immediately struck dead. And the Ark was always placed behind a veil, to represent the great holiness of God. No one except the High Priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, and even so, he was only allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies only once a year.

We can see just how holy, blessed and hallowed the old and historical Ark had been, which was still a creation of man, no matter how precious and amazing it had been. Then let us imagine just how much more wonderful, amazing and holy the new Ark of the Covenant is, because Mary was made not by the hands of any man, but by the hands of God Himself. There can be no creation of man, no matter how great can compare with God’s creation.

And while the inside of the old Ark was two slabs of stone, a bowl of manna and the staff of Aaron blessed by God’s presence, but the new Ark contained nothing less than God Himself present in the Flesh, God incarnate, Son of God, Jesus Christ. And that is why, if the people of Israel had treated the old Ark of the Covenant in such a hallowed manner, it is just perfectly logical that Mary would also have been hallowed and blessed by God.

It is as simple as how God Who is perfect and all good can never be paired together with any form of sin. No sin can ever stand in the presence of God. That is why, if He was to be born of a human being, through His incarnation in the Flesh, how can He Himself be borne into this world in a vessel so pure and blessed, free from any corruption, if all men had fallen into sin, are sinners and are tainted by sin? That is why, because of this, God gave Mary the singular grace of being immaculate, pure and free from sin.

This is primarily why we honour Mary, the Mother of God and our Lord Jesus Christ so much. And that is why so many of us are so devoted to her, because not just that she is the Mother of God, and therefore the one closest to her Son, but even more so, that her own exemplary faith and life, her complete obedience to the will of God as shown in our Gospel passage today, is truly the best example for us all to follow in our own journey of faith.

Her acceptance of the great role as the mother of the Lord and Saviour of all, her humble obedience and readiness to respond to God through the Archangel Gabriel is indeed a very amazing example and inspiration for us all to follow, as it is indeed not easy for any one of us to bear the burden and the crosses that Mary herself had to bear in her own journey, in having to raise Jesus and then to see her own Son being condemned, tortured and died on the Cross before her very own eyes.

Now, all of us then have to realise that each and every one of us are called to follow the example of Mary, in our own journey of faith. Do you remember what I have just said earlier on, that no creation of man can ever compare to the creations of the Lord? Each and every one of us are God’s creations, brothers and sisters in Christ, and all of us are special even more so, because we have been made in the image and likeness of God.

While unlike Mary, we have been tainted by sin, and corrupted by the darkness of our sins and disobedience, but God has always intended for us all to be like that of His mother, in faith and purity, as He made all things to be good and holy. Sin was not God’s creation and was never intended to be part of us or our lives. This is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, we must all strive to be holy, just as Our Lord is holy, and resist all the temptations to sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today as we honour Mary, the Mother of our Lord and God, for her wonderful faith and life, let us all ourselves devote ourselves anew to God, with a new faith and commitment, to be holy and to sanctify ourselves, by turning away from all of our sins, and by embracing a new life dedicated to serve God and to walk in His path alone. Let us all do our best and help one another in this journey together as one faithful people of God.

Mary, Holy Mother of God, conceived without sin, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Monday, 9 December 2019 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.

Monday, 9 December 2019 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ephesians 1 : 3-6, 11-12

Blessed be God, the Father of Christ Jesus our Lord, Who, in Christ, has blessed us from heaven, with every spiritual blessing. God chose us, in Christ, before the creation of the world, to be holy, and without sin in His presence.

From eternity He destined us, in love, to be His adopted sons and daughters, through Christ Jesus, thus fulfilling His free and generous will. This goal suited Him : that His loving-kindness, which He granted us in His beloved might finally receive all glory and praise.

By a decree of Him, Who disposes all things, according to His own plan and decision, we, the Jews, have been chosen and called, and we were awaiting the Messiah, for the praise of His glory.

Monday, 9 December 2019 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to YHVH a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

YHVH has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love, nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you, lands, make a joyful noise to YHVH, break into song and sing praise.

Monday, 9 December 2019 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 3 : 9-15, 20

YHVH God called the man saying to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard Your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree I ordered you not to eat?”

The man answered, “The woman You put with me gave me fruit from the tree and I ate it.” God said to the woman, “What have you done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”

YHVH God said to the serpent, “Since you have done that, be cursed among all the cattle and wild beasts! You will crawl on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

The man called his wife by the name of Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.

Saturday, 8 December 2018 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today together with the entire Universal Church we rejoice together to celebrate the great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. On this day we focus on our belief that Mary, as the Mother of God, was granted that singular grace by God to be conceived without a single taint by sin, and therefore, remained also without sin through her birth and life.

That is why the Church has placed the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the eighth day of December, full nine months prior to the Solemnity of her Nativity on the eighth day of September. And these solemnities and feasts highlight to us the incredible life of Mary, the one whom God has chosen to be the Mother of the Lord and Saviour of the world.

And why is this special focus on Mary, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because all of mankind, save for Mary and her Son, Jesus, have been corrupted by sin from the moment of their conception, because of the taint of the original sin of our forefathers, beginning from the time of Adam and Eve, as mentioned in our first reading passage today. Satan tempted Eve and then Adam to disobey God, and through their disobedience sin entered into our midst.

And sin is a great corruption on our whole being, affecting our entire self, from the physical, to the mental and spiritual parts of ourselves. Therefore, if we are corrupted by sin, then, we cannot be with God and be in His presence, for God is all good and perfect, without corruption and without sin. We will be destroyed because of our sins, and unless we purify ourselves, we cannot be with God.

That is why, if we read through the Old Testament, in the Book of Leviticus and in other traditions of Israel, the people of God have to purify themselves first prior to coming to the presence of God. This was also why the Temple of Solomon and the succeeding Temple of Jerusalem has large basins designed for the containing of water for ritual purification for the people and the priests offering the sacrifices.

And in the original Temple of Solomon, and earlier on, the Tent of Meeting, was housed the Ark of the Covenant, within which were the two slabs of stone on which the Ten Commandments were written, the staff of Aaron and the sample of manna, the heavenly bread. All of these were the concrete signs of God’s presence in the midst of His people, as part of the Covenant that God has sealed with His people, thus naming the Ark as the Ark of the Covenant.

The Ark of the Covenant was made from the finest materials, crafted with the finest details from gold, as the most precious vessel for the Lord’s presence, and placed within the holiest part of the Lord’s Temple, the Holy of Holies, veiled and not easily visible to the people from the outside. All of these symbolisms and details served to show the people, how God is all powerful and mighty, and unless we are worthy to be in His presence, we will perish.

And if that Ark of the Covenant, filled with the memorial of God’s Covenant as written in the two slabs of the Ten Commandments and the proof of God’s power in the staff of Aaron and the manna, then how all the more wonderful is the New Ark of the Covenant, which is none other than Mary herself, chosen by God to be the Vessel through which He would send into this world, the fulfilment of His promise of salvation, the New Covenant that He would establish with all of us His people, once and for all.

The choice of a woman to be the bearer of the Saviour of the world has been revealed to the world itself, in fact, ever since the time when man first fell into sin, as mentioned in our first reading today. Although men were punished for their disobedience against God, and thus deserving death and damnation, but God still loved them and wanted them to be saved, for in the end, it was because of Satan’s evil machinations that men fell, and thus, He proclaimed before man and Satan, that while Satan would continue to strike at the sons and daughters of man, but through the Woman, who is to come, Satan’s dominion and reign over man’s fate will come to an end.

That woman is Mary, whom God chose from among all the sons and daughters, descendants of Adam and Eve, all sinners, to be the one who would bear the Messiah. And this is where our faith and belief in the Immaculate Conception of Mary must be linked to what we have just discussed earlier about the corruption of sin, and about the Ark of the Covenant, how holy it was and how precious the materials that were used in its construction.

For God willed that Mary alone out of all those born of man and woman, would not have the taint of sin, which is the corruption of our body, mind, heart and soul. Mary alone would be granted the singular grace of this immaculate nature, coming from the word immaculate that means ‘pure’. Mary was specially designed by God to be pure and perfect in all things, as how He created them at the beginning before sin came into our midst.

Is such a thing possible? Of course, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is definitely possible, for nothing is impossible for God. God is almighty, omnipotent, all-powerful and all-knowing. Surely it is within His power to will a being without sin into creation, and thus, Mary was made, the perfect New Ark for the New Covenant, that is Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Mary is that new vessel through which the One Who would establish and seal the eternal Covenant between us and God would be born.

And the nature of this New Ark, Mary, is indeed marvellous. For unlike the old Ark, crafted by the hands of men out of worldly materials of gold and other precious materials, the New Ark, that is Mary, was made by the hands of God Himself, crafted in His own image and perfection. And therefore, this creation of God far surpassed the creation of man, and indeed, fitting, for this New Covenant is nothing like the old Covenant.

For in Jesus Christ, the New Covenant, God Himself came down in the flesh through Mary, His mother. Through Mary, God became incarnate into Man, assuming His human nature, which was then united but remained distinct from His divine nature, in the person of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, Son of Mary. Just as the Spirit of God hovered over the old Ark of the Covenant and the whole Temple of Jerusalem built by King Solomon at its consecration, the Holy Spirit came down on Mary and by the will of God, the Saviour, the Divine Word Incarnate was conceived in Mary’s womb.

Thus, after going through all these, surely we can see why God made Mary to be perfect and blameless, without a single taint of sin. Just as God is all good and perfect, and sin has no place before Him, then the Vessel that bears Him, for nine months in the womb, must also be blameless and perfect, free from any taints, including that of sin. That is why, God made Mary to be special, and affirmed by the Archangel Gabriel, who greeted her with the greeting, “Hail Mary, full of grace”.

Of course, this does not make Mary to be divine or a goddess, unlike what some would accuse the Church and us of doing. There has been plenty of misunderstandings and misrepresentations on the Marian Dogmas of the Immaculate Conception, of the Perpetual Virginity and the Assumption, in which certain people had this misconception that we worship Mary like as if she is a goddess. This is not true, and which all of us as Christians must be very clear about.

Mary is still an ordinary human being like us, but at the same time also special, because of the role for which God has prepared her to be. But we also venerate her and love her so much, because after all, she is none other and nothing less than the Mother of Our God Himself, and if we profess to believe in Jesus Christ, love Him and wanting to devote ourselves to Him, how can we then not love His mother, Mary, whom He Himself loved very much?

Today, as all of us rejoice together in this great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, all of us are called to spend some time to reflect on our own lives, on our own actions in life, on whatever we have done to others, on every words and deeds we have given and shown. Are we able to call ourselves good disciples and followers of our God? Or are there many areas in which we can improve ourselves, in growing deeper in our relationship with God, and in turning away from our sins?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to imitate the examples of Mary, who is not just conceived and born, and lived without the taint of sin by the grace of God, but even more importantly, whose life is an inspiration to all of us. She suffered a lot in her life, and as a poor woman from Nazareth, surely she encountered many challenges throughout her life. Yet, she remained good in her faith in God, and remained committed to God, obeying His will and whatever He has planned for us through her.

Are we able to dedicate ourselves to the Lord in the same way as Mary had done? Are we able to say ‘yes’ to the Lord’s call and allow Him to do His wonders through us, just as Mary responded to the Good News proclaimed by the Archangel Gabriel with perfect humility and obedience, with her own words, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to His will”?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to progress through this season of Advent, let us spend more time in prayer and in trying to deepen our relationship with God. Let us ask the Lord to reveal in our hearts and minds, in the silence of our prayers, what His will is for each and every one of us. May the Lord continue to watch over us and draw us closer to Him, and may His blessed mother Mary, the Immaculate Conception, continue to intercede for us, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 8 December 2018 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.